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The importance of welcoming more Maori and Pasifika staff

Industry training organisation ServiceIQ has released two 17-page action plans which map out how Maori and Pasifika staff can develop their skills and participation in the service sector. 

The service sector, which includes retail alongside hospitality, tourism and other sectors, is forecast to have over 180,000 job openings over the next five years.

In Retail NZ’s 2016 ‘Big Issues in Retail’ survey, retailers reported that managing diversity was likely to be a concern, but not immediately. However, demographic shifts are already increasing New Zealand’s racial diversity – according to Stats NZ, Pacific Island and Maori families are expected to grow faster than those of Pakeha. The Asian population with New Zealand is also forecast to increase through net migration.

This diversity is already filtering through to the service industry workforce.

Pasifika people will make up around 8 percent of New Zealand’s population by 2023, and currently fill around 5 percent of service sector roles nationwide. ServiceIQ’s Pasifika Action Plan 2017 says approximately 19,076 Pacific Islanders work within retail and the retail supply chain.

Similarly, New Zealand’s Maori population is expected to hit 15 percent by 2013, and Maori make up 10.1 percent of service roles around New Zealand. There are 36,771 Maori in retail and retail supply chain roles.

Discussions with Maori and Pasifika businesses and community groups have revealed some themes which potentially impact on the demand for and supply of both groups of workers, says ServiceIQ’s action plans.

On the demand side, these include the need for more iwi-owned or Pasifika-owned businesses and tourist demand for authentic New Zealand stories; while supplywise, perceptions of the service sector as an “unattractive” and “low-status” career destination and low levels of work readiness may be affecting the number of Maori and Pasifika service workers available. Opportunities to access young people through school transition programmes are emerging, however.

ServiceIQ’s Pasifika action plan emphasises the diversity of Pasifika people, but highlights the importance of having collective responsibility and being part of a group to many of Pasifika communities.

“Pasifika people understand instinctively what it means to have collective responsibility and be part of a something much bigger than themselves. If this quality, so inherent in Pasifika, is recognised and harnessed, there is huge potential for Pasifika people to greatly benefit businesses in the service sector.”

Critical success factors for Maori include an oncoming wave of Maori consumers and staff, driven by changing demographics which will see 15 percent of the population identifying as Maori by 2023; and a model for learning within the workplace which takes the Maori cultural background into account.

 Among the action points towards exploring and enhancing new opportunities for Pasifika in the service sector are targeted Maori and Pasifika Trades Training initiatives running countrywide, and a focus group targeted at young Pasifika.

Maori are offered action points aimed at strengthening their transition into the service sector, with ServiceIQ’s ‘Gateway’ training to be amped up over 2017. Partnerships with Maori businesses, iwi and hapu are also on the cards, among other initiatives.

Further initiatives are intended to help Maori and Pasifika staff build competence, with key employers to be approached for participation in developing individual employer engagement plans.

Service IQ’s Maori Pasifika action plans also include a focus on celebrating Maori and Pasifika success. The organisation plans to seek out ambassadors and businesses which have implemented initiatives for their Maori or Pasifika workforce, and develop profiles for these people.

Retail already includes outstanding Maori businesspeople, such as Foodstuffs' Jason Witehira. Witehira discussed the increasing importance of Maori in retail with NZ Retail in 2016, saying good mentors, a supportive company culture and a great attitude have been key to his success:

“It's not about luck, it's not about whether dad's got money or you've got no money, it's all about your own personal attitude to succeed. Because it's actually quite lonely at times, when everyone's looking at you for strength, advice and direction. You're just as human as everyone else and sometimes you don't know, but you can't show that you don't know. You've got to work through it.”

This story first appeared atThe Register.